Israeli hospital doctors say they will force-feed shackled Palestinian hunger strikers

A protester wears tape on his mouth reading “water and salt” during a rally in solidarity with hunger striking prisoners at al-Aroub refugee camp near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, 31 July.

Mamoun Wazwaz APA images

Doctors at Kaplan Hospital, one of nine Israeli civilian hospitals where approximately 80 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike have been transferred, have “threatened to force-feed the administrative detainees on hunger strike in case of loss of consciousness,” the rights group Addameer reported yesterday. Meanwhile, a bill that would allow doctors to force-feed hunger striking prisoners passed its first vote in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, today.

The hunger strike — the longest in Palestinian history, according to Addameer — was launched on 24 April by 120 Palestinians arbitrarily held by Israel without charge or trial, a widely condemned practice known as administrative detention. According to Reuters, the number of prisoners participating in the hunger strike has risen to approximately three hundred.

Hospitalized prisoners told Addameer’s lawyers that the doctors threatened to “introduce food to the body through the nose into the stomach without taking consent, after shackling [them].”

Prisoners described to Addameer the cruel treatment to which they are being subjected in the hospitals:

The hunger strikers in hospitals are shackled to their bed by hands and legs for 12 hours a day, and bound by one leg for the remaining 12 hours. They are required to seek permission from the guards to use the restroom, and are not allowed to use it at night. Due to their constant shackling, the detainees are forbidden from walking in the rooms, despite the recommendation from the Ministry of Health to do so to keep their blood circulating.

The hunger strikers also testify to the ill-treatment of the medical staff in both the hospitals and the prison clinics. The doctors refuse to fully disclose the contents of the supplements they give to the strikers, making the hunger strikers fearful of taking any supplements that will result in them unintentionally breaking their strike. The absence of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), whose role is to monitor the health of the detainees and provide them with the advice and counseling on the supplements and vitamins given to them, has allowed for this continued negligence of the hunger strikers.

Additionally, they continue to be banned from yard time, suffer from continued transfers to prisons and hospitals, and systematically denied lawyers visits.

The lives of the hunger strikers are in danger, Addameer adds, “as their core muscles are now deteriorating and the body fat has disappeared from their bodies. Some of them were told by the doctors that they can suffer from a heart attack or stroke at any moment. Some are suffering from intestinal bleeding, vomiting blood and fainting in addition to significant loss of weight and decrease in heart rate and decrease in blood sugar.”

Knesset votes to force-feed strikers

Meanwhile, a bill which would enable the force-feeding of hunger striking prisoners with a court order passed its first hurdle in the Knesset today. Today’s vote is the first of four needed before the bill becomes law, Reuters reported. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to expedite the passing of the legislation.

Reuters adds:

Qadoura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian Prisoners Society, which advocates on behalf of Palestinians in Israeli custody, said the strike would continue and that the proposed law “will not break the will of prisoners.”

He said “forced feeding could kill prisoners,” citing the deaths in 1980 of two Palestinian prisoners whom he said died in an attempt to force-feed them during a hunger strike.

The IMA [Israel Medical Association] says “forced medical treatment, including force-feeding is forbidden,” and that implementing such a measure would violate internationally accepted medical ethics.

However, as was reported on this blog last week, Israeli medical professionals have long colluded in the widespread and routine torture of Palestinians in Israeli prisons and detention centers.

More than 5,000 Palestinians, including almost 200 children, were in Israeli detention as of 1 May, according to Addameer.




the force-feeding bill passed the first of three, not four readings on 9 June. It is due for its 2nd and 3rd readings (taken together) as early as next week. the Israeli Ministry of Health which is in charge of disciplining/striking out doctors who are in breach of medical ethics is promoting the force-feeding law, even though force feeding is defined as torture by the World Medical Association's Declaration of Malta, and forbidden by UN bodies.

Maureen Clare Murphy

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Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.